The last famous Inner Loop of the Houston hot dog is quietly closing

A Houston dining establishment has closed its last Inner Loop location. The James Coney Island At the corner of Shepherd Drive and Richmond Avenue it closed quietly last week.

The signs in front of the restaurant read:

Dear JCI client, We have made the difficult decision to permanently close this website. We are very grateful for your patronage at Shepherd for many years. We are a small local business and hope you will continue to support us in our other locations in the Houston area. Indeed, Houston’s 99-year tradition counts on your support. Please note that all employees from the site have been offered employment within the company.

Founded in 1923, James Coney Island is primarily known for its hot dogs, which are traditionally served with mustard, onions, cheese, and the restaurant’s signature chili sauce. In recent years, the company has attempted to rebrand as a fast casual concept called JCI Grill; In 2015, Houston chef Matt Marcus (8th Wonder Brewery, The Eatsie Boys) hired Houston to update some of the non-hot dishes on its menu. However, President Darren Strogan told CultureMap that the business is not what it used to be.

“We’ve always been known as Rodney Dangerfield from the sandwich category,” he says. “He doesn’t seem to have the respect that the baby-boom generation gave James Coney Island.”

Currently, diners can satisfy their cravings at 11 Houston area outposts, including Maryland, Westheimer West Galleria, Humble, Webster, and The Woodlands. Straugan notes that closing certain locations was part of a deliberate strategy to reconfigure restaurant operations.

“We bought a lot of real estate 25 years ago when we started expanding Coney Island,” he says. “It’s worth a lot of money today.” “Economy unit is too much to sell hot dogs. We’ve made the decision to start selling our properties. We’ll open up Coney Islands in smaller spaces with SUVs.”

Shepherd’s Restaurant is the latest JCI company to cease operations. Since 2021, the restaurant has also closed its locations in Town & County, Meadows Place, Katy (Mason Road) and in West Houston at Clay Road and Sam Houston Parkway.

More sites may be closed in the future. Commercial real estate company United Equities lists restaurants in Pasadena, East Houston (I-10 and Federal Road) and North Houston (I-45 and Crosstimbers) as available for rent to new tenants.

Regarding specific stores, Stragan says Shepherd’s sales have been hit by a hard-to-reach location and street building in the area. Due to staffing difficulties, it dwindled to only switching from one car to another. Likewise, the Town & Country store lacked adequate parking and had no parking space.

“We’re not going away,” Strogan says. “We enjoy being able to sell the concept. We have people who want to keep the brand alive and thrive. To use the current term, we’re pivoting.”

In this mode, three former JCI locations – Mason Road, Meadows Place and Willowbrook Mall (7103 Cutten Rd.) – will become new locations for Cabo Bob’s, the Austin burrito restaurant known for using the highest quality ingredients and making tortillas to order. Don Brinkman, founder of Cabo Pop, told CultureMap in March that the three sites appealed to him because of their similarities to some of the company’s existing Austin restaurants.

For James Coney Island, Straugan says fans can expect to celebrate the 100th anniversary in 2023 to honor the founding Papadakis family. Expect details to be announced in the coming months.

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